Sunday, June 21, 2015

Right-Wing Ideology A ‘Shape-Shifter’ — Naomi Klein

In my ongoing (and probably never-ending) effort to ingest the complete works of Naomi Klein, more or less in reverse order (I finished reading This Changes Everything last month), I have begun the formidable task of absorbing The Shock Doctrine, Klein's work on how some governments, many corporations and some leaders both corporate and governmental leverage the public's response to major disasters... acts of terror, natural disasters such as storms or earthquakes, unconventional changes of government, etc. ... to exercise, even in a democracy, a far greater degree of executive and corporate control than previously possible. Klein's term for it is "disaster capitalism," and even a couple dozen pages into the book she makes a compelling case not only for the existence of such a phenomenon but also that the US (among many other nations) is experiencing it, from no later than 2001 forward, possibly from as early as the mid-20th century.

What captured my attention at the moment was her observation about how the terminology changes to obscure what is really being done to us, and to the citizens of other nations (p. 14-15, first [hardcover] edition, 2007):

Naomi Klein
In the attempt to relate the history of the ideological crusade that has culminated in the radical privatization of war and disaster, one problem recurs: the ideology is a shape-shifter, forever changing its name and switching identities. [Milton] Friedman called himself a "liberal," but his U.S. followers, who associated liberals with high taxes and hippies, tended to identify as "conservatives," "classical economists," "free marketers," and, later, as believers in "Reaganomics" or "laissez-faire." In most of the world, their orthodoxy is known as "neoliberalism," but it is often called "free trade" or simply "globalization." Only since the mid-nineties has the intellectual movement, led by the right-wing think tanks with which Friedman had long associations — Heritage Foundation, Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute — called itself "neoconservative," a worldview that has harnessed the full force of the U.S. military machine in the service of a corporate agenda.

The ideology I grew up with at least through childhood and part of adolescence was unmistakably "liberal," no bloody "neo-" prepended, a direct descendant of the political and economic philosophies of FDR, JFK and (in some matters) LBJ. No shape-shifter I! May I add a cross-lingual pun to the terms listed in the previous paragraph: "laissez‑unfaire"?

Klein's book looks likely to prove a satisfying if massive read. Take a look, at least; it should be in your public library, now that it is no longer her most recently published book. Or do an excellent activist-writer a favor and buy it; we need to encourage such people to dedicate themselves to the serious issues of our day.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Michael, I always regret it when we don't get the benefit of your commentary, but I do respect your privacy. As it turns out, I receive a reminder email for each comment, and the email duplicates the content of the comment (and of course survives even when you remove the comment), so I have seen it, and plan to take your suggestion. But that's enough here, as you've elected not to publish your comment.

      I hope you are doing well!



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